Dooley and Thomas post double doubles in Rams’ home opener

Published 11:54 pm Tuesday, November 28, 2023

The Valley Rams finally made their long-awaited return to their home area on Tuesday night and handled the Bullock County Hornets 68-52. 

Despite the double-digit win, it was somewhat of an up-and-down performance for the Rams. The Rams struggled to put the game away early on with failed attempts at the foul line and conditioning was an uphill battle for Valley. 

“We played hard, but I’m not satisfied, not satisfied at all,” Valley coach Marshon Harper said. “Defense rotations are off. The offense is off. We’ve just got a lot of work to do. If we want to repeat, we’ve got a lot of work to do.” 

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Valley’s offense did have its struggles, but the Rams are still set up to be one of the best offenses in 5A. 

The pace that Valley played with was tough for the Hornets to keep up with. The Rams consistently pushed the ball up the court and converted on several fast break opportunities. 

The combination of Cam Dooley and Brandon Thomas shined again against Bullock County. The size of both Dooley and Thomas gave Valley several extra possessions on the offensive glass, and both players had no problem getting to the rim. 

Dooley led the Rams on the night with 23 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, six steals and one block. Thomas followed Dooley with 13 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, two steals and two blocks. 

“It just helps us out a lot,” Harper said. “We’ve done figured out that you can’t bring them both out of the game. Somebody has to stay in there and rebound the ball.” 

Valley got excellent play from the guards as Ian Crim-Davis finished with 12 points, three rebounds, two assists and one steal. Jay Harper finished with 11 points, two rebounds, three assists and one steal. 

Coming off of football season is a tough adjustment for any high school basketball team. Each player in the Rams’ starting lineup was also on the football team that just ended its season a little over two weeks ago. Early on, Harper has seen some layover with his players from football season. 

“It seems like we’re still playing football,” Harper said. “We’re out of shape. People catching cramps and stuff.” 

Last season, one of the main things that helped Valley on its run to the state championship was the depth of the team. With Zan Woody, Galvin Goss and others coming off the bench depth should be a strength for the Rams this season. Early on, rotations have still been a work in progress, and Harper is looking for some of the bench guys to step up. 

“I think it’s coming along,” Harper said. “We’re working with some guys, but they’re still not where I want them at. They’ve just got to realize that if you’re coming off the bench, you should have more energy than the people who are starting, so the coach won’t even think a second about bringing you back out. That should be your mentality if you’re coming off the bench.” 

The win on Tuesday improved Valley’s record to 2-0 on the season. The Rams have a tough stretch to end the week as they face LaFayette on Friday at home, and then face Troup on the road on Saturday. Going into those matchups, Harper wants the team to make major improvements. 

Free throws were a struggle early on as Valley connected on just four of its 11 attempts in the first quarter. It eventually steadied, and the Rams connected on 11 of their 19 free throw attempts. 

“We’ve got to shoot free throws better,” Harper said. “We’ve got to get in our set offense better. We’ve got to close out. We’ve got to go back to the lab, watch some film, see some stuff we did right [and] see some stuff we did wrong.”